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Redskins Notebook

End Zone Remains Elusive

By Jason La Canfora
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 19, 2004; Page E10

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 18 -- The Washington Redskins managed to break the 20-point barrier for just the second time in a 26-16 victory over the San Francisco 49ers Saturday at Monster Park, but the offense continued to struggle near the goal line. The Redskins scored only one offensive touchdown despite having the ball inside the 10 three times, failing to get into the end zone on any of those series.

Coach Joe Gibbs wanted to establish the run, and tailback Clinton Portis carried 35 times for 110 yards (a 3.1-yard average). He ran the ball six times inside the 10-yard line for a total of one yard. He got two cracks from inside the 3 and gained a total of one yard, was dropped for a two-yard loss from the 3 and, on the third time inside the 10, tried to reverse field and lost 10 yards.

Washington Redskins wide receiver Rod Gardner
Washington Redskins wide receiver Rod Gardner
Rod Gardner gathers in a 39-yard pass from Patrick Ramsey in the second quarter that gave the Redskins a first down at the San Francisco 3. (Lou Dematteis - Reuters)

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"I think you have to give a lot of credit to the 49ers," Gibbs said. "They gave us some different looks down there and they got some guys free. We missed some assignments there mainly because they changed some fronts that we weren't expecting."

"The number one thing we need to focus on, and I'm not trying to rain on our parade, but we've got to stick the ball in the end zone when we get down there that close," quarterback Patrick Ramsey said. "If we're playing some of the better teams in the league, then we don't win this game if we don't score there."

Portis needs 217 yards in the final two games to become the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,500 yards in each of his first three seasons. The Redskins (5-9) are 5-0 when Portis carries at least 29 times or reaches 100 yards.

Crop of Catches for Gardner

Wide receiver Rod Gardner awoke from a 10-game slumber, catching six balls for 111 yards, including a diving 39-yard reception in the second quarter. Gardner had a career-best 10 catches (for 167 yards) against Dallas in the third game of the season, then went silent. He did not go over 41 yards in the past 10 games, had not caught more than four balls in a game in that span, either, and his longest reception was 18 yards.

Gardner made his most acrobatic grab on a lob pass from Ramsey down at the 3. Gardner and receiver Laveranues Coles were in the same spot, and Gardner twisted his body and extended fully to bring it down. The play was Washington's longest since Week 4, as the club has lacked a deep passing game all season. Ramsey (18 for 27 for 214 yards and a touchdown) was again effective overall, making sound decisions and avoiding turnovers.

Getting Defensive

Washington's defense allowed 254 yards, and thus will likely be ranked second to Pittsburgh again when Week 15 is complete. . . . Prior to Antonio Pierce's 78-yard interception return, the Redskins did not have a defensive touchdown since the final game of the 2002 season, when linebacker LaVar Arrington recovered a fumble for a touchdown in a 20-14 victory over Dallas, a span of 29 games. More than 100 defensive touchdowns were scored in the NFL in the interim. Prior to the score, Washington had an apparent interception return for a touchdown reversed because of a forward lateral and Ron Warner returned an interception to the 9. . . . After being fined a collective $30,000 for wearing their socks illegally in the past two games, safety Sean Taylor and Portis were within NFL regulations Saturday. . . . Wide receiver Darnerien McCants was inactive for the first time in six weeks after spending the first half of the season as a spectator primarily because of lack of special teams acumen. Antonio Brown, inactive since being signed Nov. 11, took McCants's spot and served as punt returner, with receiver James Thrash, the normal returner, used more in the offense. Taylor Jacobs replaced McCants in the team's goal-line package as the lone receiver. Kicker Jeff Chandler made his season debut and was 4 for 4 on field goals, including a 49-yarder. . . . Penalties and lack of discipline remained a problem for Washington, as did miscues on special teams. "Special teams today was a little bit hit or miss," Gibbs said. Fred Smoot's illegal use of hands penalty away from the ball gave San Francisco a first down when it would have had to punt, and the 49ers went on to score a touchdown on that drive. Offsides and illegal blocking penalties again hurt the special teams units, and the Redskins allowed a blocked punt in the end zone for a safety. . . . Offensive lineman Vaughn Parker, who was signed Oct. 25, was inactive again and has yet to play this season. . . . Offensive lineman Dan Goodspeed, signed after working out at Redskins Park last week, was inactive, as was defensive lineman Cedric Killings, who was recently signed.

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